At the heart of the Parihaka story is its people. Its origins, its resistance, its
desecration, its desolation is its people. A place where its people have
shaped its legacy, but one that could never be told or acknowledged without
the survival of those people. Today its restoration, rejuvenation and
revitalisation are still about its people. My people.
From August 2000 to January 2001 an exhibition at Wellington’s City Gallery,
curated by the late Te Miringa Hohaia, titled ‘Parihaka: The Art of Passive
Resistance’ took the artistically interpreted story of those people, of that
settlement, of that injustice and a hugely important but conveniently
ignored part of this nation’s history to a wider public audience than ever
before (Hohaia, O’Brien, & Strongman, 2001).
It cut a swathe through the heart of ignorance, of cultural amnesia, of
colonial government corruption and introduced thousands of unknowing
citizens to a story purposefully forgotten and unspoken and one that,
ironically today, still remains a largely unknown aspect of Aotearoa’s history.
To date there has not been another single collection or exhibition of this
magnitude brought together to speak directly of the Parihaka experience,
but while the opportunity for continued education from an exhibition on
that scale has not yet been realised, many other artworks, projects and
exhibitions during the ensuing years have featured work which continues to
educate by reflecting that painful legacy.
That enduring pain continues to cut deep, into the
consciousness of those of us who are descendants and into the
psyche of those who come to the knowledge later in life, asking
why they were never told (Warne, 2016). This thesis proposes
to examine the integrated notion of cutting – or haehae, in its
literal and figurative manifestations, on materials in creative
output, within the hearts, minds and skin of Parihaka uri
(descendants). It will examine its representative aspect within
the art that relates to my Parihakatanga and is exemplified
through many artforms created by other artists, with whom I
share whakapapa to the Kipa (Skipper) whānau (family). I will
also explore my own artistic response to that legacy, leading to
the development of my final project, inspired by two specific
personally experienced events – which on the surface seem
totally unrelated, but in actuality are intrinsically linked.
The first is ‘He Puanga Haeata,’ the Parihaka-Crown
Reconciliation Ceremony held at Parihaka Pā on Friday 9 June
2017 (‘He Puanga Haeata’, 2017), while the second event is the
May 2018 mass beaching of parāoa (sperm whales) along the
South Taranaki coastline (Boult, 2018). Developing a cultural
narrative and artistic transition from art reflecting pain, anguish
and trauma to hope, promise and reconciliation is an ongoing
challenge, a journey that myself and others may continue to
articulate within various aspects of our work, cutting across
history and generations.